tv The Last Word MSNBC February 10, 2011 11:00pm-12:00am EST
the last word with lawrence o'donnell starts right now. protesters, even the cia were convinced that egypt's president mubarak was going to quit. but mubarak defied them. and the situation is now more dangerous than ever. there was just an explosion of anger at the end of the speech. >> what just happened? >> mubarak is not going anywhere. >> the crowds were convinced president mubarak was going to leave. they watched, waited, and then turned angry. the only thing clear in that long statement from president mubarak was that he's not leaving egypt. >> we are still trying to make sense, and as the egyptian people are trying to make sense of what exactly this means. >> it seemed defiant in a very sad way.
>> he transferred his authority to the vice president. >> not the protesters, not even the government of the united states could convince president mubarak it's time to leave. >> people are just angry and bitterly, bitterly disappointed. >> they thought as of several hours ago that he was going to announce a resignation. >> in ron allen's voice, i hear the same spark, that kind of kinetic crackle in the air. it went from happy to toxic. >> i'm sorry. i'm trying to get away from a big mob behind me. >> do you have a safe place to go right now, ron? >> yes, yes. >> the situation volatile. crowds threatening to push back harder tomorrow. >> it was quiet. people listened, hoping to hear something good. people are just so -- so frustrated and angry. >> the crowds are not accepting it. they are already continuing with their chant, "go, go, mubarak, go." [ chanting ] >> those are the chants that have been going on for a few hours now. >> these demonstrators want to
see the tail number of a jet leaving a tarmac carrying hosni mubarak. >> the white house facing an even tougher position now, and the cia may have missed again. >> the cia director, leon panetta, expected mubarak to step down tonight. that was obviously incorrect intelligence. >> for barack obama, tomorrow he will face a different kind of crisis, much more volatile. >> that is really vintage mubarak. >> i mean, he's been our puppet dictator. we built his army. >> so his interests have been our interests. >> what worries me a great deal, the army might intervene. >> going to be a tense night out here. >> good evening. in cairo, thousands of angry protesters have entered day 18 of an uprising, calling for president hosni mubarak to leave. when day breaks there, many fear it will be the most dangerous day of the crisis. all day today, the world
anticipated mubarak would announce that he would step down. instead, he stepped up to a podium in his palace and said this -- >> while i'm fully aware of the crossroad we are at and based on my firm conviction that egypt is going through a defining moment in its history, i have seen that it is required to delegate the powers of -- and authority of the president to the vice president as per the constitution. >> handing over authority to vice president omar suleiman, but legally remaining the head of state. immediately caused an uproar in tahrir square. protesters waved their shoe in disgust and erupted into chants yelling, "leave, leave." president obama, who watched mubarak's speech on air force one, just released this statement. it says in part, "the egyptian people have been told that there
was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful, or sufficient. too many egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy, and it is the responsibility of the government to speak clearly to the egyptian people and the world. we, therefore, urge the egyptian government to move swiftly to explain the changes that have been made and to spell out in clear and unambiguous language the step-by-step process that will lead to democracy and the representative government that the egyptian people seek." joining me now on the phone live from cairo's tahrir square, nbc producer chapman bell. chapman, what is happening in the square right now? >> reporter: well, lawrence, at the moment it's still filled with people. it's almost like a little community now. they're committed to their cause
that they want to stay in this square until mubarak leaves -- well, renounces his claim to the presidency. until he leaves as president of egypt. these people here, it's a mixture of anger and surprise. they all arrived at the square today expecting to have a celebration. it was widely reported that today mubarak would step down from power. and a sign i read said "mubarak, that's not enough." and that's clearly the sign tonight. these people are furious and say they are committed to staying here. and many of them tell me tomorrow they will be out here. they're expecting the biggest force yet of protesters. it is peaceful, and it's -- it's a gathering of people who just simply want president mubarak to leave power. lawrence? >> chapman bell, thank you for joining me live from tahrir square. and joining me now, live from cairo, richard engle.
richard, there's talk of a march to the presidential palace tomorrow. they have threatened that before. is that more or less likely to happen now? >> reporter: we have been told that some protesters have already marched to the presidential palace. just marching there is one thing. and if they stand in front and shout, then there's not likely to be any kind of incident. but if they try and break in, if they try and breach the perimeter, then you could have a violent incident. everyone has been talking about massive clashes expected tomorrow. that may or may not happen, i think we're going to see massive demonstrations, but there's really not anyone to clash with. the army is out on the streets. the army has not been taking actions against the protesters. even tonight when the crowds
were gathered, the crowds were angry, they walked by the tanks and were actually celebrating the army. they want the army to come in and do a coup. the police were not in evidence on the streets. the police has been the target of their anger. what we could see is a provocation. a few hundred, maybe a new thousand people try and take a violent action. that could dramatically change the situation. but the massive, large demonstrations that are called for tomorrow are called -- are expected to be peaceful, but you can't control the emotions of that many people, and that's the danger. >> richard, let's listen to what vice president suleiman said on state television31 minutes after mubarak spoke. >> translator: i call on all the citizens to look to the future. go back home. go back to your work. do not listen to the satellite television stations whose main purpose is to fuel and drive a wedge among the people.
>> richard, what are the protesters' reactions to that, and how many of them actually see these statements? it seems from where we're sitting that they're all in the streets, so they're not going to see the television statements anyway. >> reporter: they do have some television monitors set up in the square, and they are following quite closely all of the statements coming out of the government. so they are aware of the government's message. suleiman has said this before -- as many officials have said this -- you have what you want, go home. and that is the message that we're hearing from president mubarak and vice president suleiman. we've given you what you wanted, now go home. the protesters don't believe it. it's come back to the question of trust. and president mubarak speaking as he was today, like the father of the nation to the sons and daughters of egypt, i hear you, to paraphrase him. i understand, i'm handing over responsibilities to vice president suleiman. according to u.s. officials
we've spoken to, the president honestly believes that this movement will go away. that it will dissipate and that he can ride this out. the protesters are on a different page. they don't want this. they don't trust the system. they want mubarak gone, and they want to make sure that this transition phase takes place without mubarak in the same regime with a position to wield the levers of power. >> richard, the white house finally issued a statement. they were working on it for hours. it was suggested that it would be out hours ago. they finally got it out just before 8:00 p.m. eastern. it basically says that they want more clarity from the egyptian government in terms of what the plan is now. the one specific in it, richard, i'd like you to explain to us -- the statement says "we believe that the emergency law should be lifted." what would that mean? >> reporter: well, that would mean that the law that has been in place since anwar sadat's
assassination in 1981 would -- by lifting the emergency law, you allow political parties to reform. you allow the political process to develop. the emergency law was implemented as the name implies during a state of national emergency, when sadat was assassinated. president mubarak has used that law to prevent any kind of political life expanding in this country. so the administration, the white house is saying if you want to have this transition to power, you need to lift the emergency law. otherwise you can't allow political entities to flourish in this country. you can't say we're going to transition to democracy but we're going to do it with the status quo, the state of emergency that doesn't allow political discourse. that is a step that the egyptian government could take immediately to at least satisfy the united states. when you look at it from the egyptian government's perspective, they think, are you
totally crazy? we are in a state of emergency again, perhaps one that was more severe than after sadat's assassination. why would we lift the state of emergency right now? >> richard engle of nbc news, thank you very much for joining us live from cairo tonight. joining me now the host of msnbc's "the rachel maddow show." rachel, what do you make of the president's statement, having read it? does it read like three hours of work to you? >> it's long. so it may take a long time in order to put that through. i mean, it's a lot of the things the president has said in the past. there is some specificity to it. we believe that this transition must immediately demonstrate irreversible political change and a negotiated path to democracy. a negotiated path is clearly not the path that egypt is on right now after those statements from mubarak and suleiman. we believe that the emergency law should be lifted. as you noted with richard, meaningful negotiations with the
broad opposition and egyptian civil society should address key questions confronting egypt's future. again, the president is staying within the -- the american take on this. which is it is egypt's people who will decide egypt's future, that is right and proper. we stand with people anywhere in the world who want to design their own future. calling for transition, again, insisting that it be sudden. excuse me, not sudden but immediate. the white house i think feels like it has gone as far as it can reasonably go. i think they believe it would be counterproductive to say we call on hosni mubarak to get on a jet and get out of the country. i think once the united states calls for that, it makes it less sustainable that the people's revolution in egypt would continue to be seen as the people's revolution and not something that was imposed by the west, particularly by the country that gives so much money to egypt. i think the white house feels like they've already gone to the edge of the envelope. they can't go farther. they can elaborate more on what they mean by that part of the edge of the envelope.
but i don't think we should expect to see some great political movement from them. no matter how long this goes on. >> rachel, mohamed elbaradei tweeted "egypt will explode. army must save the country now." is that really what this comes down to, what is the military going to do? >> the reason tahrir square filled up today is because of what the military did. the military is why egypt has been on tv all day. the military is why everybody thought hosni mubarak was going to step down today. it's because of what the military did. they did something today they have not done throughout this entire uprising. they made a political statement. the chief of staff of the army went down to tahrir square and told the protesters in person, all of your demands will be met. what's their main demand? hosni mubarak has to go. and then he said, we are -- and then they went into this supreme council meeting. that's -- that council has met twice before, both during wars. they met today for the third time in the existence of the
supreme council of the armed forces in egypt. and they met without mubarak and suleiman and said we will act to protect the legitimate demands of the people. the military gave every signal in the world today that they were taking over. and that's why people thought mubarak was going to resign. that's why tahrir square of full. that's why we've been on this all day. and then mubarak just didn't. so the question is, is mubarak a shell? is he a man who's saying that he's in power but doesn't actually have any means of enforcing that? richard made a very important point there. he said there may not be clashes tomorrow because there's nobody for the protesters to clash with. there's nobody on the other side of this anymore. it may be that suleiman and mubarak are standing up there today, and they're essentially papier-machier figures that can be knocked over as soon as somebody tests their authority. we just need to hear from the military now in order to know who's really in power. >> and that also means, rachel, that there's no real way to
gauge what the permanency is of any statement that mubarak makes. >> bingo. >> it's hard to take this as more than i'm not going to quit today. >> and i'm a guy who no longer apparently speaks for the military nor gets invited to their meetings. so they've shoved me in a broom closet. here's me making a statement from the broom closet saying the other guy in the closet with me is in charge. he's shouting from the sidelines. if the military and mubarak are split, and that is the great unanswered question hanging over all of this, if they are now split, then it's sort of me and what army. no matter what mubarak says. no matter what suleiman says. if they don't have a means by which they will stay in power with the people in the streets saying we want you gone, it really doesn't matter what they said tonight because this is just -- this is just the preface to them leaving. we've got to hear from the military to know if they really have split from mubarak the way they seemed to at about 10:00 a.m. eastern time today.
>> rachel, you are more than primetime's leading authority on this subject. thank you very much for joining me tonight, and we're going to see you at the top of the hour when you come back with your coverage. >> thanks, lawrence. ahead in this news hour, the missteps of the obama administration today. the president's cia chief telling congress that it seemed likely mubarak was stilling down. does the u.s. have a major intelligence problem inside egypt? hey tough guy, that cold needs alka-seltzer plus! it has the cold-fighting power of an effervescent packed in a liquid-gel for all over relief! hiyah! dude! ♪ hey ♪ what you do to me ♪ what you do to me ♪ hey ♪ all i see ♪ yeah [ male announcer ] you know her. ♪ it's new to me, yeah
as you can see, i got the same information you did. that there is a strong likelihood that mubarak may step down this evening, which would be significant in terms of where the hopefully orderly transition in egypt takes place. >> that was the cia director, leon panetta, testifying to a house committee on capitol hill earlier today, making a prediction that proved to be completely wrong. a senior government official later tried to clarify those remarks to nbc news saying the cia director was merely alluding to news reports, not citing intelligence. joining me is msnbc political analyst eugene robinson, also columnist with the "washington post." we've seen a demonstration why for a job like cia director testifying to congress is often
the most dangerous thing he can do. >> it really is because everything you say is going come back at you. look, i really want my cia director to be basing his testimony on intelligence. and our best lines into the egyptian power structure are to the military. when i heard panetta speak this morning, i assumed that we were getting information from the military that indicated that mubarak was going to leave. and indeed we may have been getting such information that just turned out to be wrong. >> yeah. i mean, i have the feeling that as the professional he is, he was actually using information that he got out of his building, but now that it's turned out to be wrong, they want to disown the information and say, i don't know. we were just reading gene robinson's newspaper or o'donnell's network and watching that thing -- >> really.
blame it on richard engle, you know. i just -- >> exactly. >> i don't think that's going to work. >> exactly. gene, what do you make of the last three hours or so of the white house trying to get a statement together, which they have finally got together just before we came on the air at 8:00 p.m. in which they don't say anything terribly new, it feels like, as you read that statement, that it -- it almost feels as though you can feel the struggle inside the white house about the establishment view of this and the protect israel view of this. you know, mubarak's been an ally view versus the let's go with the people on this. the statement seems still somewhat torn between those two ways of looking at this. >> and the administration will always be torn among those varying forces that are pulling it in different directions because that is the situation. all those things are true. i don't think that has changed. i think what you see in that statement is the administration frankly struggling to come to terms with what it is the united states can and cannot influence in egypt. what is it that we can do to
bring it to -- to a satisfactory conclusion. clearly the president and i believe he sincerely wants a quick transition. not september, much sooner. immediate, now. but it's unclear exactly how he makes that happen. i think it's significant that they specifically mention the emergency law. richard engle was smart to pick up on that. in fact, that is a prime instrument of the kind of repressive machine of the mubarak administration. and the fact that they're not repealing that law i think is highly significant. tells you a lot about the state of mind of mubarak and suleiman. >> it is the only real specific in the president's statement. but it is a big specific. gene, earlier today, we've learned that the saudi -- saudi arabia's king abdullah warned president obama that he must not humiliate mubarak.
now here is one middle eastern dictator saying, please don't humiliate any other middle eastern dictator. how much should obama be paying attention to the advice he's getting from the region? >> well, what that shows is that we're not the only ones with influence in egypt. saudi arabia has influence in egypt. israel has influence in egypt. and all -- all these neighbors, all these autocrats plus the israeli prime minister are going to be telling and have been telling mubarak to hang tough because the other arab autocrats don't want -- don't want their populations to rise and kick them out as this threatens to happen with mubarak. so that's a counterforce against whatever we're telling mubarak, and we have to deal with that fact. however, the u.s. will always have influence in egypt. and it's just that that influence is limited and is in some ways counteracted by the influence of others.
>> gene robinson of msnbc and the "washington post," thank you for helping us do this live coverage of the egypt cries i tonight, gene. -- crisis tonight, gene. >> great to be here, lawrence. as our breaking news coverage continues, mubarak has made it clear he's not bowing to pressure of foreign entities. senator john mccain responds to that. and the egyptian conspiracy theories of glenn beck. how he's stoking fears of a worldwide muslim uprising. we'll talk to the only muslim member of congress, keith ellison. i know what works differently than many other allergy medications. omnaris. omnaris. to the nose! did you know nasal symptoms like congestion can be caused by allergic inflammation? omnaris relieves your symptoms by fighting inflammation. side effects may include headache, nosebleed and sore throat. [ inhales deeply ] i nipped my allergy symptoms in the bud. omnaris. ask your doctor. battling nasal allergy symptoms? omnaris combats the cause.
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it was one week ago tonight that violence erupted in liberation square in cairo. tonight the situation may be on the verge of turning much worse. coming up, the struggle inside the white house about what to do next. secretary of state hillary clinton reportedly advising slow and steady, supporting an orderly transition. but the president's former campaign team suggesting full speed ahead for support for change. i'll talk with chris hayes and jamie ruben ahead. for strong bones, i take calcium. but my doctor told me that most calcium supplements...
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clinton and defense secretary robert gates are concerned with regional stable and are pushing for a process led by egypt's vice president, omar suleiman. in the other camp, younger voices from obama's presidential campaign including national security council staff members ben rhodes and samantha power have been arguing that mubarak's regime is finished and it's time to fully support the protesters. rhodes wrote president obama's 2009 cairo speech titled "a new beginning," that called for democratic reforms in the arab world. >> government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who would hold power. you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion. you must respect the rights of minorities and participate with
a spirit of tolerance and compromise. you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy. >> national security council staff member samantha power is a human rights scholar who wrote a pulitzer-prize winning book on genocide. she was forced to resign from the obama campaign after she called hillary clinton a "monster." are the arguments of the 2008 democratic primary campaign between the old school realist hillary clinton camp and the younger change we can believe in camp being played out now inside the white house as the administration struggles to respond to the revolution in egypt, who does president obama side with? joining me now is christopher hayes, washington editor of "the
nation" magazine. thanks for joining me tonight, chris. >> thanks for having me on, lawrence. >> chris, as you read the president's statement which just came out after hours of labor, certainly involving people we've just mentioned, it seems like it -- it reads like a tie between these two camps. you can feel the establishment statements in it, you can feel the trying to encourage the protesters sentiments in it. where is this battle going, and is the white house behind the curve on this situation because of this battle? >> well, i -- i think i would disagree a little in that i think it's a little more than a tie. which is to say i thought it was the strongest statement in support of the demonstrators of pro-democracy movement we've seen. i mean, there was -- there was a moment where it really did look like we were -- our envoy or our envoy who we sent over was basically saying mubarak is "necessary." his presence is "necessary."
this is our tribune, this attorney named wisner over there, saying mubarak is necessary to oversee transition. looked like we were behind essentially a kind of passing the torch to suleiman, etc. the statement at the white house felt like the strongest statement basically saying not good enough. now, it said it in language that wasn't quite not good enough, mubarak must go. but i did feel like that statement that the -- the balance of power which did feel kind of schizophrenically kind of wobbly had kind of reached a tipping point in favor of a more sort of forward leaning support of the protesters. >> chris, certainly the administration was taken by surprise. when the cia director saying publicly in the morning -- >> my god, yeah -- >> we think mubarak is going today. when leon panetta is willing to go that far publicly, the white house had to be shocked and surprised. that accounts for some of the almost four hours, three hours
and 50 minutes it took to coming up with this statement. i think you and i could have written something like this in about 25 minutes. so -- >> yes. >> clearly there was an institutional battle going on. but they had to process their shock and surprise at the mubarak announcement. >> it says that whatever chain of communication there was with mubarak clearly has broken down. we know there's ongoing communication with the military because they're intense and intelligence services because they're intense, close, and long-standing relationships between the american and egyptian military and intelligence services which have only intensified after 9/11. something in that chain of -- the chain of communication really broke down here. i do think there's two issues. there's the warring factions that are happening. and i think the "los angeles times" article that laid it out echoes the things i've actually been hearing in my own reporting about these kind of factions
balancing the white house. but there is the point that rachel was making, is that it's a delicate, diplomatic bit of tip-toeing. i don't think people would say this is a crazy, corrupt regime. mubarak has to go. the will of the people must be acceded to. i don't think that would be a good idea because it would give mubarak the foreign enemy he needs to stay in power. the one lever that's going to be interesting to see if it drops, the huge lever is foreign aid. $1.3 billion a year. "the arabist" writes, he wants the u.s. to write that we're cutting off aid until there's a civilian government in place and bud out saying anything and stop saying things. >> i need to play you glenn beck. >> yes. >> for me he never makes sense.
i need help translating him. i want you to listen to glenn beck's reaction to today's events. >> you are watching the beginning and the birth of the new world order. and you want to call me crazy? go to hell. call me crazy all you want. the world is heading toward a different place. and don't be taken there unaware. >> chris, now without calling him crazy, don't call him crazy, okay? >> i would not. i do not want to go to hell. >> yeah, okay. that's right, that's what will happen if you do. he seems to fear -- am i reading this correctly -- he seems to fear democracy in egypt. >> yeah. what's really interesting about beck's shows, which i've been
watching with a grim fascination, as this has unfolded is that the message, particularly the first day when things really -- monday, january 31, i think it was after that weekend, his message has been, look, you're watching this unfold and thinking get rid of the dictator, i'm on the side of the people, and let me explain why you shouldn't be feeling that way. why this heralds something dark and nefarious while the movement and upheaval is being engineered by some partnership between international marxists and islamists, and they're going to bring about callophate, blah, blah, blah -- what's interesting on beck's take is we've seen a scrambling of ideological categories. there's not just this kind of impasse, different factions within the white house about how to deal with this. there's -- there are different factions of foreign policy
establishment and particularly among the right wing. you're seeing bill crystal of the new york conservatives and glenn beck at each others' throats about exactly where the right stands on temperature crazy. >> chris hayes of "the nation" with wise analysis and a beck translation for us. thank you very much, chris. >> any time, lawrence. we are hours away from daybreak in cairo. tensions are high, massive protests are predicted. how will the egyptian military respond as the stakes escalates, and how should the white house responds? jamie ruben joins me next. owerfl pain reliever, wherever you need it! [ both ] ♪ oh what a relief it is! plus the choice of every etf, 5-star service, and unmatched trading tools. there's price. there's value. don't confuse the two. e-trade. investing unleashed. [ male announcer ] here they come. all the new tech products you need. and they're all looking for the same thing.
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alone are the authors of the current outcry for democratic change in egypt." joining me now, the executive director of "bloomberg view," jamie ruben. he served as assistant secretary of state during bill clinton's administration. thanks for being with us. >> good to be with you. >> jamie, it was the senator mccain statement came out much quicker than president obama's statement. the obama statement, as we've made much of, took more than 3 1/2 hours, three hours and 50 minutes. you've been inside those dramas where the white house has to get a statement out in a situation like this, conflicting schools of thought, conflicting opinions about exactly what each word should be. take us into the drama that just took three hours to play out, to get us that statement. >> well, senator mccain can really just say it himself maybe with one aide, come one a couple of sentences and get this message out. this statement is several
paragraphs long, descriptive, defensive. and there's a reason for that bruise r because most of the people involved in drafting this document have been the ones who urged president obama in his early days to downplay democracy in the middle east. to regard that as one of the bush policies that the election would change. the so-called freedom agenda. so all the people working around the table are struggling to come back from a time in which they were regarding democracy in the middle east as something which they were arguing against. so you look at this document and you can see that the underlying policy is no different. it's basically saying no violence, make these order transition and end up with real free and fair elections.
but the wording is fairly complicated. and i think when i just peeled through it right now, what they're really urging is, i think, correct. is for the egyptian government to explain what just happened. they certainly didn't do a good job on television today. as i understand it from talking to a senior egyptian official, really what happened is that all the relevant powers, the powers of the presidency, were transferred to the vice president. he's now the de facto president. and -- the president is still mubarak, and he's arguing that dignity and all of the arguments that you heard him make during this -- his speech today prevent him from just leaving office. and if he had said that a week ago, it would have been big news and great news, and the protesters would have been happy. the problem is each time he makes a major concession, it's about a week too late. >> jamie, what goes into the decision to have the president
just issue a statement on paper or go out to the microphone himself? >> well, i think this statement tells me that there's a lot of people in the white house who feel this is a very big issue. and they're very afraid of the optics of this. they feel that if the president doesn't establish his views, his wordings on all of these, you know, 25 sentences, that somehow they will look bad. and it tells me that they're worried more about optics than they're worried about strategic judgment. you put up on the screen the secretary of defense and the secretary of state hillary clinton and bob gates. i suspect they're a little less worried about that. they're on the phone with their counterparts around the region, they're worried about big changes in the middle east, what will it mean for our defense budget, our strategic posture, peace with the israelis, all of these things.
and i think -- i've thought this from the beginning, that the white house should have let the secretary of state handle more of this, and then the optics wouldn't have been so hard to get right. >> jamie rubin, formerly of the state department. thank you very much for yourin sight tonight. >> you're welcome. coming up, glenn beck's crazy conspiracy theories that the uprising in egypt is the start of a massive worldwide muslim takeover. i'll talk with keith ellison, a muslim member of the united states congress. ♪ you don't know ♪ hey ♪ what you do to me ♪ what you do to me ♪ hey ♪ all i see ♪ yeah [ male announcer ] you know her. ♪ it's new to me, yeah [ male announcer ] we know diamonds. and with an extra 10% off storewide now through sunday, together we'll find the perfect gift.
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as we monitor the cries nice egypt, the director of -- crisis in egypt, the director of national intelligence, james clapper, had to walk back some comments about the muslim brotherhood after being asked by a house committee whether the group was using the chaos for power. >> it's an umbrella term for a variety of movements. in the case of egypt a heterogenous group that has decried al qaeda as a perversion of islam. >> a spokesperson clarified that director clapper meant the mubarak-controlled political system, not the muslim brotherhood, has been largely secular. the muslim brotherhood is the latest excuse for the right wing to whip up anti-islamic hysteria, including the old standby that president obama is secretly a muslim.
joining me now, democratic representative keith ellison of minnesota, the first muslim elected to congress. thank you very much for joining us, congressman ellison. >> good to be here, lawrence. >> congressman, last night on this program, i had your colleague, steve king of iowa, and we showed video of him meeting with his constituents where they believe, of course, that president obama is a muslim, and they believe he didn't grow up american. and steve king would not contradict them, would not enlighten them in any way. i asked him to go back to the constituent and tell them the truth about the president. i'm not sure he's going to do. it there any way you could approach your colleagues out of basically human decency and say, could you please start telling the truth about the president on this? >> let me just tell you, i'd be more than happy to help
enlighten my colleagues about issues about islam, about the world in general. i think it is the obligation of every member of congress to tell the truth if you know. it one of the things that i appreciate about john mccain during the presidential run is when somebody said senator obama's an arab, he did say, no, he isn't, not that there's anything wrong with being one. and that was an honorable thing to do. and i think that any member of congress who would do less than that is not living up to the standards that the people expect. >> congressman, in terms of events in egypt tonight, i'd like to get your sense of the muslim brotherhood and what to expect if they do become part of a power-sharing government. apparently, at this time, their leaders poll very badly among the egyptian population, and they seem to represent approximately 20% of the people. what would be your anticipation of the muslim brotherhood's role in a future egyptian government? >> lawrence, the thing that is so exciting about this movement is that it is a stunning rebuke
to al qaeda-ism, and it is a stunning rebuke to anyone who would want to impose their will on the people through use of bombs or force or anything like that. not only that, the people in tahrir square, some of them are religious, some of them are not. but this is a demand for dignity, democracy, and bread and jobs. it's exciting, both sexes, different kinds of people, christian, muslim, people of all different backgrounds. this is about the people. it has nothing to do with what some sectarian group's agenda is. you know, this is a scarecrow, this talk about the muslim brotherhood. but the most important thing is this is a group of people who are rejecting al qaeda-ism, rejecting religious extremism, and saying they want what we have, which is democracy. and we got to stand on the side of that, lawrence. i can't -- i urge our leaders in the united states with every
fiber of my being to stand unequivocally with the people of egypt because the people in power now have -- are in an unsustainable position. they're going out no matter what happens. all we can do is be good hand maidens of democracy together with the international community, and, you know, if we treat these people right as they are trying to be what we already are, which is a democratic country which respects the rights of people, they will remember that. if we don't, they will remember that. >> congressman, do you hope that in any future egyptian government that they will be able to maintain the good and respectful relationship that that country now has with israel? >> yes, of course. but here's an interesting thing lawrence. if you listen to the protesters in tahrir square, they're not talking about hostilities with any other country. they're not talking about international agreement. you haven't seen one israeli flag, you haven't seen -- what we hear is they want bread, they
want peace, they want freedom, they want dignity. and the last thing those people in that square want to talk to anybody about is getting into hostilities with another country, particularly a nuclear-powered country. i mean, this -- we've got to keep our mind on what the people are saying. they are saying they want dignity. they don't want to be -- they want to be able to speak their mind. they want to be able to have a choice in leaders who govern them. they want to have decent economics. they want to be in a situation where they can have hope and aspiration. this is not about israel, quite frankly. and i'm quite confident that the people in that square and the people in tunisia, those folks just want what so many of us in the west take for granted every day, which is to be able to cast a vote, to be able to go to the grocery store, to have a decent job, and to be able to say, you know what, whoever the president is or my representative is, i had a say in either picking him or not. >> congressman keith ellison, democrat of minnesota. thank you very much for joining us tonight.